Friday, 10 December 2010
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
Little did I know when I posted our video The Collie Walk on last week's blog that so many people would view it. OK, so we haven't attained mega star status but 14,000 views in one week is pretty good going for a small, unplanned video captured whilst playing in a field with the dogs.
I have enjoyed looking at the comments on the various forums. However, questions have been raised, was the behaviour in the video cued? Was it a planned event with helpers? Even some doubt as to whether the behaviour should be permitted as it may result in bad feeling between the dogs. So, time to set the record straight ...
The Collie Walk was completely unplanned. A glorious day in a field, just me the dogs and camera. I’m still learning the video part of the camera - hence all the zooming in and out! If you watch the video it does become apparent where the focus of each of the dogs lies.
The senior dog is Womble Bum, she’s the one in a down closest to me. Her focus has always been on me unless there have been more interesting things to focus on ... a leaf blowing by in the wind, a blade of grass, a tennis ball ... you get the gist.
Next dog to come along was Handsome Lad, he’s the second dog to start ‘The Walk’. Watch carefully and you will see that he is clearly focusing on Womble Bum - a quick sideways glance to his left, well that's towards the flock of 35 Herdwick sheep in the next field!
Then came the third dog, Cafe Latte Girl. Something very special from a very early age, introduced to sheep at 10-weeks of age - it became very apparent then that she was incredibly stylish. Since that early introduction she has ‘worked’ the dogs when not working sheep. There is a 10 month gap between Handsome Lad and Cafe Latte Girl so it’s quite natural for her to focus on him.
So where do the two Highland Hooligans, that’s the New Boy and Arctic Fox, come in? Well, Arctic Fox was the fourth dog on the scene, when she arrived Cafe Latte Girl decided she’d play surrogate Mum, so Arctic Fox has her focus set on Cafe Latte Girl - you’ll spot the pattern that’s developed!
The Arctic Fox doesn’t tend to do ‘The Walk’ too often, though she can. She much prefers to run around the field hanging off CLGs collar.
The New Boy, fifth dog to arrive earlier this year, and the one who prompted the blogging, walks up beautifully on sheep, but he’s been a working lad from a young age and is quite clear with the boundaries!
That’s the explanation behind the focus, now what’s actually going on in the video?
The only ‘forced’ behaviour was to put Womble Bum in a down stay when everyone else had put themselves into their own downs, quite naturally as that’s what collies do, about the field. Once she was down, the Cafe Latte Girl started walking up onto the Handsome Lad at which point I started filming - there was quite a lengthy bit of walk missed as the camera wasn’t on. When she came in behind Handsome Lad then I put a walk up cue onto him. So starts his walk up onto Womble Bum, CLG is still clearly focused on him.
The two Highland Hooligans are still on the hill, watching the others playing silly beggars.
As Handsome Lad gets closer to Womble Bum, another stay is given to her, and another ‘walk up’ to him just to bring him in a bit closer. Then the break, with a swift ‘that’ll do’, but look again, it is Womble Bum who starts the break and every one of them refers to her ... she is after all, my top dog. They all rushed around madly completely relaxed with no built up tensions and certainly no problems between them, ready to start the game all over again! I love my dogs!
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Monday, 11 October 2010
There’s just one of the fabulous six pack of pups remaining with me and I’ve got her for almost another three weeks yet - lots of things to see and do in that time. She’s got a super new home to go to. She’ll be joining a member of a local mountain rescue team who will train her as a search and rescue dog. The Fabulous Fearn has been re-named, but I’ll continue to refer to her as Fearn.
Breeding a litter is a very emotional process. Taking aside the things that can and do go wrong even before the mating has begun, there’s the worry about your very precious bitch - breeding always poses a risk to the bitch. The homing of the pups is also an emotional process. The saying goodbye to a pup can be fairly emotional, but that’s on the cards right from the start. A tear or two has been shed as I’ve waved goodbye to a pup, and that’s mixed in with happiness in the knowledge that I’ve placed the right pup in the right home.
Matching the right puppy to the right owner is vitally important. When a pup was booked from this litter it was made clear to prospective owners they would not be given free choice of the litter. First on the waiting list did not mean first choice of pup. If that’s not liked then people can find a pup from someone who is willing to allow them to make their own choice - many people pick the wrong pup for their personality and lifestyle and sadly many breeders allow them to do so. Even the sex of the pup cannot be guaranteed - a bitch was booked from the litter, it was obvious very early on that one of the boys was the ideal pup for them. It was explained why and they are very happy with him. Everyone has gone away with a pup they're delighted with and with a pup best suited to them.
Out of our litter of six, two owners had their pick and they were working obedience homes, experienced dog handlers who knew exactly the qualities they wanted for their next obedience champ, hopefully. However, had either of them chosen a pup I felt was not right to do the job, then they would have been steered towards another pup. As it turned out, any of these pups would have done any job ... but some were more suited to particular jobs than others.
Quite early on, two pups were selected as suitable for search and rescue, a boy who has now gone to one of the obedience handlers and the Fearn pup. A search home was booked before the pups arrived, however, that person decided they’d wait until the next litter. So a pup going spare. Sell her to the first really good, active home that comes along? No, most definitely not. She had qualities too good not to use.
A number of people wanted Fearn, she’s fabulous, there’s nothing not to want about her! People who I would normally consider to be an excellent owner, offering a wonderful home, where my pup would want for nothing and she would have a happy and active life. However, pups suited for search and rescue don’t come along in every litter, I was very lucky to have two of them. So, in Fearn’s case five homes were turned down and I started playing the waiting game.
Occasionally you might find the ideal person for your pup, who can offer the right home and lifestyle, with the right job for your pup to do, but maybe that person might need just a little bit of a nudge for them to realise the timing is actually right!
And so it is, the Fabulous Fearn is heading off in a few weeks’ time to her new home, and in the not too distant future she will start training with the mountain rescue search dogs. Gut instinct comes into this breeding lark, and gut instinct played a big part when deciding this was absolutely the right home for Fearn, and I'm confident my instinct wont fail me.
Fearn started her training at the weekend when we went to watch the RAF and mountain rescue team do winch training. She is such a lucky pup, just 15 weeks and she has already had a guided tour inside a Sea King rescue helicopter. She has got to sniff all the smells inside, these she will store in her memory so next time it will be familiar to her. She’s met the RAF crew and is now familiar with the uniform they wear. Most importantly she’s sat in very close proximity to a helicopter taking off and landing three times. As much as the pups were accustomed to noises using a noise CD played from when their ears opened, including a helicopter, there is nothing better than the real experience. The noise as the engine starts up, the smell of aviation fuel, the tremendous sound as the rotor blades start up and the huge amount of air, and articles, blown around as a result of the downwash from the rotors. What did the Fabulous Fearn do whilst all this was happening? Well, apart from the initial surprise, she watched the helicopter as it came in to land and as it took off ... and she played with her tuggy the whole time.
That’s my girl.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Saturday, 3 July 2010
The puppies were one week old this weekend. They’ve almost doubled in weight and certainly doubled in size. Time seems to have flown by and all those jobs I was determined to do in the first week, just haven’t been done! Puppies are big time wasters! If you are breeding and rearing correctly, you just have to watch them ... looking out for the pup with the best nose and so destined to do search and rescue work, the one who might be a little bit independent, the pup that likes to have its sibblings close by. All sorts of things need to be observed, that’s my excuse for puppy watching and I’m sticking with it!
The big dogs have been really good the last week or two, their routine has completely changed. They’ve had their walks reduced a bit - I am slightly concerned about meeting too many dogs in fear of bringing infection back to the puppies. Poor Cafe Latte Girl is on house arrest, I certainly don’t want her bringing infection back. I’ve been at the receiving end of what was a seemingly harmless infection and dealt with it’s devastating consequences. There’s been no training this week, oh dear ...
The pups have had busy days, they’ve probably spent 80% of the time, sleeping, the rest has been filled with feeding, they’ve been weighed on a daily basis, they’ve posed for photographs, there have been many photographs and they’ve been doing their exercises, oh and had the obligatory puppy cuddles.
On day 3 we started the Early Neurological Stimulation programme, other names it’s known by are Super Dog and Bio Sensor programmes. It’s a set of five exercises that are carried out between days 3 and 16. All exercises are done for about 3 seconds with the aim of subjecting the pups to very mild levels of stress so kicking the neurological system into action a bit earlier than would normally be expected. There’s been a huge amount of research carried out, not least of all by me (!), and the benefits include improved cardio vascular performance, stronger heart beats, stronger adrenal glands, more tolerance to stress and greater resistance to disease and enhanced performance. Only time will tell, but it’s a programme I’ve waited to use for a very long time.
Ears should start opening over the next few days, and in preparation for this I am now playing a noise CD, ‘Sounds for Behaviour Therapy’. The CD has sounds such as fire works, thunder, heavy rain, explosions, jet planes, trains, and many more. Starting off at a volume barely audible to myself, over the next 7 weeks the volume is gradually increased until at 8 weeks old the volume is so loud, I will find it unbearable and the pups will just be playing through it all, completely unconcerned. Womble Bum, Handsome Lad and Cafe Latte Girl were all put through this process when they were pups and are all rock solid no matter the noise as a result. The pups wont hear anything for a day or two, but I’ve started it slightly early just to get Cafe Latte Girl used to it at such a low level. It’s a few years since she had to put up with it. She is proving to be a fabulous mum, but then I knew she would be, her own mother Peg is also a super mum (pictured).
By next weekend eyes will be opening, oh dear, it wont be long before they're all grown up and they leave for their new homes ....
Saturday, 26 June 2010
OK, so a spot of altering of the Frankie Valli song, but a very memorable night has been had! Saturday 26th June 2010. The very much planned, prepared for, etc, etc, arrival of the Cafe Latte Girl's puppies has finally happened. The first pup born at 3.30am, and the sixth pup born at 8.22am. Are there more? Well, aye, we think there are!
The Cafe Latte Girl has been a fabulous first time mum, she has been extremely calm throughout. Her foetal fluids have been clear, indicating there is no puppy stress, and she’s just been a natural. So far we have 3 boys and 3 girls. How well balanced is that?
My breeder friend Sue has been sat up with me all night during the births ... shame she missed the first one!! It’s been an interesting but tiring night. The bizarre thing is we were both Twittering live broadcasts of what was happening with accompanying photos of the pups as they arrived. That caused some interest around the world with people in different time zones asking if the next pup had made an appearance. Bizarre these time zones and the world of Twitter!
As it turns out there are only the 6 pups. Whilst Sue and I felt what could have been a head to a pup, and then a distinct line as if the pup had turned, there wasn’t another one.
I had intended to wait a few weeks before taking the pups out on their first journey in a vehicle, but what the heck, they’ve been out to my Vet on day 1! Eight hours after the arrival of the sixth pup, I decided to get the Cafe Latte Girl checked, so we all arrived at the Vets at 6pm. There was a concern that if a pup was delivered during the night there might be complications, so much better safe than sorry. Expecting to just have an injection of Oxytocin to induce more contractions, she had a scan. The vet could feel the same mass Sue and I could feel but it wasn’t conclusive on the scan, so decided to x-ray her. CLG was so good, she was put onto the x-ray machine, told to stay in a flat position, sand bags placed across her shoulder and her legs and the x-ray was taken with no sedative. It confirmed that CLGs first litter was the fabulous 6.
Mum and pups travelled extremely well, in fact Mum didn’t appear to think anything much of it at all.
It’s been a long night and day, and a very happy one. Time for a well deserved nap, for everyone.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Sunday, 23 May 2010
Three years ago I went to the bluebell wood with my breeder friend Sue, a camera crew and four 10-week old puppies where we all had a magical few hours. I helped to 'organise' puppies, whilst the camera team filmed them ... this was to be the early days in the development of the Well Balanced Pup DVD. A photograph I took of my gorgeous puppy was chosen to be the cover girl of the Well Balanced Pup DVD. Today, three years on I returned to the bluebell wood with Sue and her boy Mirk, one of the four original pups, and I took more photographs of my gorgeous girl ... Cafe Latte Girl, now expecting her own well balanced pups.
Mirk became the official 'Well Balanced Pup' and as such was the first Press Dog to be invited to report at Crufts!